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Flagyl and Alcohol: Understanding Risks and Recovery Options


Though it can cause a myriad of problems, it is not uncommon for patients to ignore warnings to avoid alcohol while taking certain medications. Not heeding the prescribed orders for medications can, at the very least, make you sick. When mixed with certain medications, alcohol can cause adverse reactions that range from uncomfortable to severe. Flagyl and alcohol is one example of such a dangerous combination.

Metronidazole is a common antibiotic used to treat a variety of bacterial infections in the stomach, skin, vagina, and respiratory tract. Metronidazole is often sold under the brand name Flagyl. The label for Flagyl warns that mixing Flagyl and alcohol is dangerous. If you or a loved one find that you cannot stop drinking even in the face of these risks, however, negative side effects may not be your only concern—it is possible that you may be struggling with alcohol addiction.

Understanding the Risks of Mixing Flagyl and Alcohol

The primary risk that comes with mixing Flagyl and alcohol is not that the antibiotic would be ineffective; rather, the main danger is that the interaction between the two can have severe physical side effects. Even when taken properly, metronidazole (Flagyl) may result in negative side effects such as diarrhea, tingling or numb hands and feet, mood swings, light sensitivity, coordination and concentration problems, flu-like symptoms, and more. 

The reaction between Flagyl and alcohol is similar to the effects of Antabuse, which is a drug that treats alcoholism by making patients highly sensitive to alcohol consumption. Both result in the patient feeling very sick after consuming even a small amount of alcohol.

If a patient consumes alcohol while taking metronidazole, the list of negative side effects becomes more severe—even fatal. Symptoms associated with mixing Flagyl and alcohol include:

  • Flushed face
  • Abdominal pain
  • Throbbing in head and neck
  • Headache
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Sweating
  • Cramps
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dropping blood pressure
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Liver damage
  • Heart attack or heart failure
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Convulsions

It’s important to note that negative reactions don’t occur only while taking Flagyl and alcohol at the same time. Symptoms can occur even if you drink several hours after taking the medication, or even the next day. Flagyl is usually taken over the course of 10 days, and it is best to wait a minimum of 72 hours after taking the last dose before consuming alcohol.

Note: Some over-the-counter medications, such as cough and cold medicines, contain alcohol. The warning label printed with each prescription of Flagyl cautions against taking such medications, as well as other products that contain even the smallest amount of alcohol (including mouthwash).

Recognizing a Potential Underlying Drinking Problem

One of the most significant indicators of addiction is the inability to convince yourself to stop doing something even when you know the results could be hazardous, even fatal. Because Flagyl is typically taken for only a short amount of time, the longest you will likely need to stop drinking in order to avoid adverse effects is about two weeks or so.

If you, or a loved one, find it difficult or impossible not to drink even during this brief interlude, it may be time to consider whether your alcohol use has become an addiction. Parties and holidays, of course, can make it harder to resist. It’s also possible, if unlikely, to forget and accidentally have a drink with dinner because it is your norm. But if this “accident” becomes a habit, or if it’s not truly accidental at all, it may be time to talk to someone about your alcohol intake.

Safely Quitting Flagyl and Alcohol Use

Flagyl, like any prescription drug, should be used as directed, including when it is time to quit. It is important not to stop taking Flagyl even if you feel better, otherwise, this can lead to complications with infections becoming resistant to the medication. If you or your loved one has been mixing Flagyl and alcohol, whether purposefully or by accident, it’s important to let your prescribing doctor know right away and discuss with them what needs to be done next to ensure your immediate safety. If severe reactions are already occurring, seek emergency help immediately.

At this time, you may also want to start looking into specialized addiction treatment programs. While Flagyl is not known to have any addictive potential, if you’ve been drinking while taking it, it is possible that you need additional support in order to manage or end your alcohol intake safely. This, of course, is vital to your overall health, but there are other benefits. Perhaps most importantly, getting your drinking habits under control ensures that, should you have to take a prescription medication like Flagyl again in the future, you can be confident that you will be able to do so safely.

If you’ve been mixing Flagyl and alcohol, or know someone who has, New Choices Treatment Centers can help you get your drinking under control by addressing both addiction and its underlying causes. To begin your recovery journey today, contact us online or call us at (726) 888-7003.